Authentic Leadership and Social Influence

While the idea of authentic leadership has been around since the ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” first appeared, it was not until Bill George wrote about it in 2003 that it became a popular leadership concept.

George described authentic leadership as a style that is consistent with a leader's personality and core values, and that is honest, ethical, and practical (2003, 2007).

Masks of Leadership

Unauthentic leaders hide behind masks

While the above definition is centered upon the leader or self, it is the actions of the leader that are perceived by others that determines if they believe a leader is authentic or not. And their perception is accomplished through the social influence of the leader. One recent definition of leadership is:

Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal (Kruse, 2013).

Thus, a leader's authentically emphasizes building his or hers legitimacy through honest relationships and ethical actions, that in turn, maximizes the efforts of others to achieving the goal.

In addition, Bill George noted that there were five dimensions of Authentic Leaders (2003, 2007) :

For each of the five dimensions, a related characteristic is shown that must be developed for a leader to be effective:

To become an authentic leader you must make a deep commitment to developing yourself through rich and meaningful experiences, reflection, and informal and formal learning. The goal is to learn and develop your true self, rather than become an imitation of someone else. While you can learn from others, you cannot be them.

If you are trying to develop authentic leaders, then your organization must have an authentic company culture where:

. . . individual differences are nurtured; information is not suppressed or spun; the company adds value to employees, rather than simply extracting it from them; the work itself is intrinsically rewarding; and there are no stupid rules. - Tim Fidler, 2016

Next Steps

Authentic Leadership Self-Assessment Questionnaire

Next chapter: Servant Leadership

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Fidler, T. (2013). Authentic Leadership. Harvard Business Publishing. Retrieved from

George, B. (2003). Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value. San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.

George, B. (2007). True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. San Francisco:Jossey-Bass.

Kruse, K. (2013). What Is Leadership? Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from